August 22, 2010

Trouble with Electronics in the Wild

It's hard to keep in mind that all of these gadgets can get you into trouble as well as getting you out of trouble. Having a GPS in hand while traveling the backcountry isn't so bad, but being able to use it is better. What's even better than that? Having a map and compass as a back-up.

In an article today, the Boston Globe details a few mishaps due to over-use or over-reliance on technology. Some of it is just plain stupidity. while not all of their anecdotes point to a GPS, it is a good reminder to keep a good head on your shoulders, respect nature and use back-up systems when electronics sit between you and difficult consequences.

Ten things to keep in mind when going on a hike with a GPS

  1. Make sure you know how to use the GPS and how to return to your starting point. Mark your starting point, lodge, ranger station and car with waypoints that are named correctly. It will make navigating back to them easier.
  2. Make sure everyone knows how to navigate using the GPS. Don't be the only one.
  3. Bring extra batteries for all of the electronics.
  4. Bring a map and compass - and better yet, know how to use them. If needed bring a tour book/ trail book - they can summarize the trail system and offer tips on local shelters if needed.
  5. Plan your hike and hike your plan. (Ripped that off from when I took SCUBA classes) When planning, it's important to know what you are getting into; trail types, weather exposure, vertical ascent, overall distance, water crossings are all things to consider when matching the hike to the group's capabilities.
  6. Leave that hike plan with someone. If you don't show back up, they will know where to start looking.... because you hiked that plan right? Leave a copy of the plan in your car at the trailhead if not with another person.
  7. Bring the right clothing, water and food; and then some extra. When we hike the White Mountains, I am reminded to be humble when I recall the book "Not Without Peril " which details how under-prepared, and/or over-egoed trekers got into trouble in the Presidential Range and died. I can't tell you how many people I see walking up Mt Washington in shorts and a T-Shirt swinging a 20 ounce bottle as they hike.... wait a minute, I think that's also a chapter in the book.
  8. Know when to turn back - just because you planned to summit, doesn't mean that you have to when there are people in your party who clearly can't make it or the weather turns bad.
  9. Bring a first aid kit; they can be small enough to fit in a Day Pack pocket and still be of good use on a hike.
  10. Have fun - GPS units can make hiking a lot more reliable and accessible when used smartly. It's made hiking a lot more enjoyable and safe for us. As a result we are out hiking even more.

More on that article at the Boston Globe

Some of my favorite Handheld GPS units are: The Garmin eTrex Legend HCx, The Garmin Dakota 20, The Garmin Oregon 400t, the new Garmin GPSMap 62St, the Delorme PN-40 and the new Delorme PN-60W

Read More in: GPS Missteps | Handheld GPS Reviews

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Posted by Scott Martin at August 22, 2010 1:28 PM

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